Creating new perspectives since 2009

Saudi Arabia detains Sudan militia commander allied to army

June 10, 2024 at 8:52 pm

Saudi police cars are parked and policemen stand guard in front of ‘Al-rajhi mosque’ in central Riyadh on March 11, 2011 [FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images]

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have reportedly detained the commander of a Sudanese militia allied to the Sudanese army, amid ongoing speculation that Riyadh is backing the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) along with its Emirati neighbour.

According to the outlet, Sudans Post, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation, Sudanese militia leader, Al Misbah Abu Zeid, was in the Islamic holy city of Makkah performing his Umrah pilgrimage when he was detained by Saudi authorities on 4 June, potentially due to a gathering of Sudanese citizens around him for photographs.

Abu Zeid is reportedly the commander of the Malik Ibn Baraa Brigade, which emerged during the eruption of the country’s ongoing conflict in April last year and is an ally of Sudan’s military. The militia is linked to the paramilitary organisation the Popular Defence Forces – otherwise known as ‘Shadow Battalions’ – and, due to its affiliation under the Sudanese Islamic Movement, is seen as a jihadist group.

READ: Sudan suspends work of Saudi- and UAE-owned TV channels

The Sudanese government has, according to the report, contacted the Saudi government and sought the release of Abu Zeid, with little success for now. The media official for the militant group also denied threats against Saudi Arabia in an effort to calm the situation, but said the group’s leadership trusts Sudanese authorities to handle the matter.

The reason for Saudi Arabia’s arrest and detention of the militia commander has not been clarified and Riyadh has not commented on the issue, but reports say his open presence in the Kingdom may have violated Saudi Arabia’s Penal Law of Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing.

There are and have been many other controversial militant figures who have been seen in the holy city over the years, however, with no action taken against them by Saudi authorities. The reported detention could potentially be due to the Kingdom’s rumoured support for the Sudanese army’s rival, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), like its neighbour, the United Arab Emirates.

Despite some evidence pointing to their support for the RSF, neither of the Gulf states have acknowledged it and Riyadh, in particular, has positioned itself as a mediator between the Sudanese military and the RSF.

READ: The UK should not be co-opted by the RSF militia and the UAE